While the mass shift to telework amid the COVID-19 pandemic caught some organizations off-guard, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) had already practiced with a full telework workforce just weeks before the maximize telework order came.

At the June 17 FCW Cloud Summit, HHS OIG CIO Chris Chilbert said that the agency’s telework test came just a couple weeks before the pandemic worsened and the entire workforce had to shift. HHS OIG, however, already relied on mobility to complete audits in the field. HHS OIG had recognized “several years ago,” according to Chilbert, that its workforce is very large and disrupted, and more mobility was needed.

“Many times, it can be hard to make the business case within an organization for things that are not necessarily tangible,” Chilbert said. “We really have a great support from our leadership all the way up to the inspector general to make investments,” he added.

With support from executive leadership, Chilbert continued, the agency “recognized that the technology is more embedded in the work we do.” That’s why HHS OIG was already working on a “world class infrastructure that allows us to analyze data, have high performance” to boost mobility.

Chilbert explained the problem as auditors needing access to data from across HHS in a secure way in order to effectively do their jobs. Through its mobility efforts, “what we’ve been trying to do is find a new and improved way of giving people access to the data in a secure way … The old-fashioned way was to send over a bunch of CDs,” he said.

Instead, HHS OIG is leveraging is cloud computing investments to make it easier to share data securely across these environments and building analytics capabilities into the new platform to support auditor activities, Chilbert said. Overall, Chilbert added that the agency is trying to ease the employee transition to a more mobile work environment with tools like a simple one-page guide that simplifies and lowers any barriers to entry.

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Katie Malone
Katie Malone
Katie Malone is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.